Iraq’s recently elected president Fouad Masoum officially asked on Aug 11 Shiite politician Haidar Al-Abadi to form a new government in a direct blow to incumbent PM Nouri Al-Maliki, who has been seeking a controversial third term as PM despite a large-scale opposition from rival Shiites and Sunni parties.
Abadi’s formal selection might break the deadlock that has crippled Iraq’s political scene and triggered large-scale political and even security opposition from the minority Sunnis against Maliki’s aspirations. Maliki, however, rushed to reject Abadi’s appointment, claiming he holds the constitutional right to get the premiership.
Nouri al-Maliki’s predominately-Shiites State of Law coalition won 92 out of the 328 parliamentary seats at the April 30 general elections. The State of the Law, however, is part of a larger Shiite alliance branded as the National Alliance. A spokesman for the Alliance said it had nominated Abadi, a deputy speaker of parliament and ally of Maliki in his Dawa party, to replace him as PM.
Thus, as expected, the Shiite parties seem to have decided to isolate Maliki and present a national consensus, meaning Abadi, in order to cut their mounting losses in Iraq’s politics. The recent military invasion staged by al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) that took control of the country’s second largest city Mousel has also played a role in sidelining Maliki. The US Administration, likely in compliance with the Shiite regional powerhouse Iran, has already voiced its support for Abadi’s appointment as new PM. The US Administration even warned Maliki of resorting to violence or a ‘coup’ to topple Abadi.
Maliki might try to diffuse tensions among his Shiites allies and withdraw from the race to the PM post thus acknowledging Abadi’s formal nomination. The question is, however, at what price. The coming days will surely provide an answer whether Abadi’s appointment as PM is again the fruit of behind-the-scene horse trading between the US, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
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